Debunking J.D. Vance’s ‘Conservative’ Critics

Tuesday’s election in Ohio is arguably the single most important “America First” primary of the 2022 cycle. And, as sad as it is predictable, the greatest threat to the America First movement comes not from Democrats but from spineless Republicans.

Ohio’s America First U.S. Senate candidate is J.D. Vance, who came to prominence in 2016 with the publication of his bestselling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. As a candidate, Vance has shown a clear understanding of the struggles facing America’s working class. The elites hate him because he’s one of them. He went to their universities and accumulated wealth as a Silicon Valley venture capitalist by following their playbook. Now he’s poised to use their own tactics and weapons against them. He is a classic “traitor to his class.” 

Pointless Purity Spiraling

While presumptive Democratic nominee Tim Ryan is gearing up to be a formidable opponent in November’s general election, Vance must first get past the biggest hurdle to his chances of winning the Senate race and taking his fight to the halls of Congress: Establishment RINOs who are trying to torpedo his insurgent candidacy by driving a wedge between him and the voters he needs most.

Vance is alleged to be a NeverTrumper. The charge is partly true. Vance vocally and publicly opposed Trump in 2016. In tweets since deleted, Vance denounced Trump’s proposals on immigration, appeared to buy into the line that Trump was a “racist,” and suggested that he would vote for independent NeverTrump candidate Evan McMullin in the general election.

Unlike other former NeverTrumpers who have tried to rewrite history and pretend they were always on the Trump Train, Vance has been honest about his mistake, and admits he was happy to be proven wrong once Trump began fulfilling his promises in office. Note, too, Vance changed his mind well before he declared his Senate candidacy. Vance so thoroughly reputed his anti-Trump views, in fact, that Trump endorsed him last month. In his endorsement statement, Trump acknowledged that Vance “may have said some not so great things about me in the past.” 

“In fact,” Trump continued, “if I went by that standard, I don’t think l would’ve ever endorsed anyone in the country.” If every candidate were to be judged by regrettable past statements, then even Trump himself would not pass this purity test, considering he unambiguously supported Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency in 2008.

But, Trump concluded, Vance “gets it now, and I have seen that in spades.” 

You would think that the president’s endorsement would have settled the matter for good, but no. Vance’s primary opponents remain hell-bent on convincing Ohio voters that he is a secret NeverTrumper who will betray the popular former president the moment he takes office.

As soon as reports first emerged that Trump was preparing to give Vance his blessing, all of the other candidates in the race, with some assistance from the Ohio GOP establishment, began colluding in an effort to convince Trump to withhold his endorsement. Some even went so far as to call on their supporters to heckle Vance at his scheduled rally appearance with Trump.

With all of the other four major candidates working together, the flow of misinformation against Vance increased to a level not seen against any candidate, arguably, since Trump himself. 

Even before Trump offered his support, Vance had already won the endorsements of many other prominent figures in the America First movement. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), U.S. Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, and others had all backed Vance before Trump made his announcement. No other candidate in the race can boast such a star-studded list of endorsements, and with this much broad support from the rising populist wing of the Right, it becomes clear that support for Vance is not an outlier, but a clear pattern for those who truly understand the stakes of this race.

Swatting Away Vance’s Ankle-Biters

There is, in fact, one bona fide NeverTrumper in the Republican Senate primary, but it isn’t Vance. 

State Senator Matt Dolan has earned the adoration of the mainstream media by being the only candidate who did not actively court Trump’s endorsement or Trump voters’ support. Dolan has even gone so far as to criticize the other candidates for supporting Trump, falsely claiming they have “embraced lies and undermined the Constitution to go all-in for one endorsement,” which, in his mind, has “cheapened their candidacies and the integrity of the office they wish to attain.” 

Turns out, it was Dolan’s anti-Trump rhetoric that reportedly motivated the former president to make an endorsement in the first place, to ensure that whoever won the nomination, it would be someone not named Matt Dolan.

Former Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken has also proven herself unworthy of the support of Ohio voters and the Trump base. In her desperation to appeal to this crucial voting bloc, her campaign released ads that misrepresented Trump’s past support for her 2017 bid to lead the state party as being akin to an endorsement of her Senate candidacy today. Furthermore, although Timken was making preparations to meet with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, she ultimately canceled those plans once reports surfaced of Trump’s impending endorsement of Vance.

Investment banker Mike Gibbons has seen a late polling surge for unclear reasons. Despite running for Senate in 2018, he has failed to define himself politically or establish a clear theme for his campaign this time around. While he attempts to portray himself as an outsider who can bring the mind of a businessman to Congress, he has been dogged by accusations of having business ties to China, even as he accuses one of his rival candidates of being soft on the rising Communist nation.

The Career Politician Behind the Lies

But leading the charge against Vance is the dethroned frontrunner in the race, former state treasurer Josh Mandel. 

Mandel has already proven himself to be the most ineffective candidate possible. He has run for Senate twice before, and lost both times: first in 2012, when he lost to incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown by a six-point margin, and again in 2018, when polls suggested he had a good chance of winning. But Mandel withdrew abruptly from the race ahead of the primary, citing family health issues, thus handing Brown an easy reelection win.

In his desperation to avoid a third defeat, Mandel has abandoned any semblance of good judgment. Mandel was booed by the audience at a recent GOP debate, after he screamed in Gibbons’ face. Gibbons had just rebuffed Mandel’s charge that he’s in bed with the Chinese, telling Mandel, “You’ve never been in the private sector in your entire life. You don’t know squat.” Mandel lost his cool and got right up in the older Gibbons’ face, yelling about his service in the Marines and his time in Iraq. The moderator had to to step between the two men and physically separate them. In a moment that would surely have made the Bush-era GOP proud, Mandel went for the cheap shot of equating Gibbons’ remarks with disrespecting American troops writ large.

According to reports, Trump called Mandel’s debate conduct “embarrassing” in response to backers lobbying for the president’s endorsement. Perhaps not coincidentally, a straw poll of viewers after the debate saw Vance emerge as the overwhelming favorite based on his performance, with 43.1 percent choosing him as the winner. Mandel came in dead last, with just 4.6 percent.

One Vance critic, Cleveland radio host Bob Frantz, attempted to tie Vance to Big Tech in a debate with Sebastian Gorka. Frantz claimed Vance “comes from the world of Big Tech,” and “is backed by one of the biggest financiers of Big Tech,” which Frantz believes undercuts the candidate’s promise to “bring Big Tech to heel” in Congress. But once Frantz was forced to admit that the previously nameless “Big Tech financier” backing Vance was none other than Peter Thiel, a known Trump supporter, he conceded that “nothing is wrong with Peter Thiel.” 

A Candidate Like No Other

When one steps back and takes a look at the broader picture, it is easy to see the numerous similarities between Vance’s campaign now and Trump’s campaign in 2016. An outsider businessman who has never run for office before displays a crystal-clear understanding of the struggles of the American working class, and is prepared to criticize both parties for selling out the country.

It is time to finally put an end to the lies against Vance, the Trump-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate. For speaking the truth, Vance is lambasted as a racist by the mainstream media, demonized as not conservative enough by rival Republicans, and slandered with misinformation by career politicians trying to maintain the status quo. When one candidate is opposed by all of these forces, it’s a strong indication that they are a candidate worth supporting in their fight against the establishment.

About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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